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Thread: Large argenteus Herring gull

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Large argenteus Herring gull

    I would be interested in any comments on the attached gull - taken on 27th January at Walberswick/Southwold harbour. What was striking about the bird was its size - much bigger than the other Herring Gulls on the pier, and a real brute in the field. The dark underwing coverts and auxillaries also stood out. My sense is that it is a large argenteus Herring gull, but any thoughts would be welcome.

    Sean Nixon
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Galway city, Ireland


    Hi Sean,
    While I am sure that some smithsonianus COULD look like this, I would tend either to put it down to variation within argenteus/argentatus (most like the former in terms of mantle shade) or leave it unidentified for certain in a European context. The tail looks to be quite dark, and this is arguably the only real pro-American Herring feature, but a dark tail is not too uncommon in 2ND-winter argenteus: such a tail pattern on a 1ST-winter bird would be far more interesting. The dark-washed greater coverts are commonly shown by many 2nd-w large gulls, even those with more barred coverts in 1st-w plumage, and size could just be due to individual variation.
    So, unfortunately, I would go along with your thoughts on this one, but it certainly does stand out compared to the other Herrings in the pics!

  3. #3
    Senior Member JanJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    Hello Sean.

    What´s interesting with your 2nd winter type (3cy, inner primaries brownish, usually clean grey in 3rd winters) gull is the tail pattern, it looks almost all dark (image 2) at least from the angle seen), but there´s obvious vermiculations on the outer t-feathers, which perhaps is not so good for smithsonianus, although it doe´s occur. That could be suggestive of an American Herring Gull (I´m absolutely not saying that it is one!) Apart from that there´s nothing else, not even the tail pattern, on this gull that eclude European Herring Gull.
    Many 2nd winter type smithsonianus have less barred greater coverts and solid dark tertials together with uniformly brownish coloured upper mantle, more solid darkish underparts and barred undertail coverts rather similar to 1st winters.

    However it should be noted that there´s almost total overlap in all the characters, at least those mentioned here.Males are bigger than females.

    Perhaps an argentatus, but males are bigger than females


  4. #4
    Senior Member Martin Scott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Outer Hebrides


    Without repeating the other postings features another pointer which often gets over looked in American Herring Gull is the vent area. It should be strongly barred. As ever though it needs to be considered in conjunction with the whole suite of features.

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